Precious Prose: A New Year’s Resolution

It’s about that time that we all start loudly announcing new goals for the year, letting as many people know what we intend so that we feel guilty if we don’t follow through (at least for a little while). This year I’m not promising to eat less chocolate (who would do something so silly?!) or work out more or spend more time with my family (though both of these would be nice). I have enough of those things, thanks. Instead, this is the year I will write more! I’m saying this loudly so the people in the back can hear me… In the next 365 days I am going to try and write as much as I possibly can. I’m also going to try and publish as much as I can.

To say I have big plans for this year is underestimating it by a thousand. I have huge plans; ginormous, great big dinosaur-sized plans.

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And maybe I’ll discover that I only have tiny T-Rex arms to accomplish these monster-sized plans, but I will try anyway.

I am lucky this year because I have the luxury of taking some time off of “work” and devoting myself to writing. I put “work” in quotation marks because I think writing is just as much work as any other job. Yes, it looks different from the outside. I won’t be going to an office. I won’t be sitting down to grade papers or plan lessons. I won’t be meeting with students or other professors. But I will still be working. Just like with teaching, there will be times I procrastinate, times I phone it in, times I’m unsatisfied with my product or wish I had more time to spend on one thing or the other.

But the point of taking time off from my “day job” is to WRITE. And, like I said, I have big plans. I want to train myself to produce prose that is good as well as fast. I want to write drafts in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years. I want to write a helluva lot of words this year and publish as many of them as I can.

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And this is all in an effort to make my prose less precious to me.

Let me ‘splain.

As writers, we get attached to our words. We often get caught up in word count (see my previous post) and in getting things just right. We can linger over one word for a long time, wondering if it truly expresses all that we mean to say, and terrified that there’s another word out there that might do the job better than the one we have. We can linger the same way over sentences, paragraphs, chapters, worrying them until they are unrecognizable.

But lately I have been thinking a lot about improv, and procrastination, and the idea of splashing words on a page and handing them in. (Can you tell I’ve just finished a semester where I graded many many papers written at the last minute?) I’ve been thinking of deadlines and just getting things done, no matter how good or bad I think they are. I have a notebook full of ideas to think and write about. All genres, all styles, all lengths, all formats. Nothing is off limits this year. This time around, it’s all about volume.

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It’s not going to be easy. And I’m sure you’ll hear more from me as I push myself to achieve these big goals. But for the moment I’m excited and ready to take on a new year and a lot of new words.

What are your New Year’s goals, writing or otherwise? What do you hope to accomplish in the next twelve months?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Last year’s Christmas tree! I spent many nights reading by the light of it.

Okay, I’m just gonna come out and admit that I am an absolute nerd about the holidays. I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!

I have loved Christmas time since I was little. My family celebrates Christmas,  and I love everything to do with it. Perhaps it’s the result of being a Christmas Eve baby. Or maybe it’s the holiday carols. Or maybe it’s the rituals and traditions my family observed, like going to the candlelight service or lighting the advent wreath. Whatever it was, Christmas always felt like a special time.

As I’ve gotten older, Christmas holds a different type of wonder for me. Oh, I still like that it means I’m another year older. (I’m a weirdo who loves the fact that she’s an adult and getting older.) I still like that it means holiday concerts and singing Christmas carols. I still like the rituals and traditions. But now I look forward to other things.

Like real egg-nog with booze. That’s definitely an awesome thing about being an adult.

Or playing Christmas carols in my own car and singing at the top of my lungs. That’s pretty cool, too.

You probably don't want to know just how many Christmas stories I have on this thing...

You probably don’t want to know just how many Christmas stories I have on this thing…

And the Christmas stories! I like nothing better than sitting in front of the television watching cheesy Hallmark holiday movies as I wrap gifts or make Christmas lists. I love curling up on the couch, knowing I have no responsibilities for a few hours, and reading any of the number of Christmas books I have on my Kindle. There is something about the possibility and magic of the season that gives me deep shivers of joy in my heart. I love Christmas stories of all kinds. There’s Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, of course. And the beloved “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem. And I will eat up just about any Christmas-time romance novel you put in front of me. From last year’s list, I loved Lorraine Heath’s novella, Deck the Halls With Love, and the Jane Austen-themed Christmas With Miss Austen by Laura Briggs. And more recently I’ve read and loved Debbie Macomber’s contemporary Starry Night and Mary Balogh’s historical A Christmas Bride.

Other people might complain about Christmas creeping up earlier and earlier into the year. And I get it. I do. It’s disconcerting to see Christmas stuff in the stores even before Halloween and it speaks to a voracious consumer culture that’s probably not doing humanity that much good.

But I have to admit that that’s not what I see when I see Christmas stuff around me. I see the magic and joy and possibility that I’ve always loved about the season. It just seems ripe for some of life’s lovely romance!

So, what about you? What Christmas-time books can you recommend? And what is your favorite part of the holiday season?

Lessons from my Students: PRO-crastinating!

The day that my students turn in their first paper of the semester I usually bring them some kind of treats and plan to watch a movie that class period. This is not just because I’m a fun teacher (that’s indisputable) but it’s because I realize a few things about how college students work. So when they roll into class bleary-eyed and clutching the biggest cups of coffee I have ever seen, I laugh and ask them a question: “How many of you wrote this essay within the last twelve hours?”

They laugh nervously, wondering if I seriously want to know the answer. But when I smile and say, “Come on,” then the hands go up. Occasionally, there is a student or two who has planned ahead and written the paper over the weekend. But mostly, my students look at me sheepishly as they admit that they’ve done the work the night before the due date. Continue reading

What’s Your Measure of Success?

Here in the Tearoom we are all either self-published or aspiring authors. As such, I know we all think about “making it”. I mean, who doesn’t? In whatever field we’re in, whatever job we do, most of us have a dream of success.

I’ll admit to having grand fantasies of going on book tours and meeting adoring fans who’ve connected with my books in some personal way. I would love to sign books with a flourish and smile at the people as I shake hands and give hugs.

But these things don’t happen for many authors, much less self-published ones who are working on their own tiny budget and limited connections.

So what becomes the measure of “success” as an author? Continue reading

What Are You Reading?

Alright, Teatimers, it’s time to show us your bookshelves! I need to make a wishlist of new books for people to buy me for Christmas! So please leave some comments telling us what you’re reading at the moment, romance or otherwise.

Outlander_cover_2001_paperback_editionI’ve just finished reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Or, I should really say REreading since I can’t count the number of times I’ve read this book. If you’ve never heard of it, click here now. It’s the first book in a truly epic historical fiction series that has one of the best couples/romances in literature. Bonus: it’s soon to be a tv series. So jump on board this fandom before it goes truly mainstream.

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I’ve also just finished reading Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1&2, and Henry V. In addition to being a Shakespeare nut (hello English major concentration!), I’ve been watching the amazing adaptations of these plays. You can watch them, too, thanks to PBS’s Great Performances series. Bonus: Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, and about every other awesome British actor you can name (expect Benedict Cumberbatch, who was busy elsewhere making everyone’s ovaries explode)!

And at the moment I’m deep into some research for a new book, so I’m reading two books for that: Set Fair for Roanoke and The Virginia Adventure.

So what are you reading? Share your lists in the comments!

Why I Craft (And How That Relates to My Writing)

This past summer I had the good fortune to stay with my mother (whom I love dearly and is one of my best friends) and enjoy a relaxing, extended vacation. After a hectic school year, we both needed time off to recharge our batteries.

So as we enjoyed some leisure time by the pool and binge-watching our favorite shows, both of us found ourselves drawn to crafts. She worked hard on knitting and crocheting some beautiful pieces and some functional washcloths. And I decided to create some cross-stitch fan art for one of my favorite shows, the BBCAmerica series Copper.

Home Sweet Bloody Home

Continue reading

The Writing Life, Illustrated with Monty Python Sketches

I was recently chatting with a friend about my favorite classic Monty Python sketches. This led to me spending time (i.e. procrastinating from grading papers or planning lessons) trolling YouTube for my favorite clips. And as I spent a few minutes (or more… maybe…) laughing, I realized that the sketches nearly perfectly describe aspects of my writing life. So here’s a tour through my brain and the wacky connections it can make… Continue reading